Titles are up for grabs | May 3, 2013 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - May 3, 2013

Titles are up for grabs

Diving gives Palo Alto early leads, but league finals are wide open

by Keith Peters

Palo Alto swim coach Danny Dye sat down one recent evening and doped out this week's SCVAL De Anza Division Championships, set for Friday in the Vikings' pool.

Adding up points based on the swim seeds and guesstimating on the diving, Dye came up with his boys beating Monta Vista for the title, 421-420, and his girls holding off the Matadors, 423-422.

While he scored a little high for his boys in diving and a little low for his girls, Dye was right on one count — he figured the Vikings would sweep the diving titles.

Paly did just that with freshman Reed Merrit taking the boys' crown and freshman Mimi Lin the girls on Tuesday at Gunn High.

"Diving's always been a strong component of our team," Dye explained. "I was very happy with diving today."

With Paly senior Cole Plambeck missing for personal reasons (he'll be back to dive at the Central Coast Section finals), Merrit filled in nicely and nearly broke Plambeck's school record. Merrit scored 504.70 points to narrowly miss Plambeck's mark of 505.65 by less than one point while taking over the No. 2 spot in school history.

"That's OK," Dye told Merrit afterward. "You're only a freshman You don't want to break the record in your first year."

Lin, meanwhile, won her 11-dive program with 462.20 points, well back of Michaela Fossati's 2006 school record of 538.95 points. Lin now ranks No. 3 in school history, also trailing Heather Peng's 469.00 total from 2004.

"I knew Reed's talent level when he came in," Dye said. "He's got natural talent. Mimi is so strong and athletic. They're great athletes and they're only going to get better. It's great to build a program on."

With Lin and senior Serena Yee (439.40) going one-two and Nadya Nee finishing eighth (358.30), that went a long way in helping the Vikings tally 54 points.

For the boys, Paly scored 52 points Jonathan Kosaka (346.00) finishing second and Scott Hillen fourth (329.65).

All the diving points will be added into the swim totals following the 50 free at Friday's championship meet, which gets under way at 2 p.m.

The Gunn boys scored 27 points with Jason Steinberg finishing fifth (309.75) and Miko Mallari taking sixth (307.80) to lead the Titans. The Gunn girls scored 19 points with Vivian Zhou's third place (417.48) leading the way.

"Now it comes down to swimming," Dye said.

Palo Alto won the boys' and girls' league finals last season. The boys need only to finish ahead of Monta Vista to successfully defend, but the Paly girls need a lot more help.

"I think my girls will do well at league," Dye said, "but we would need to win it, not totally out of the question but tough, and both Monta Vista and Gunn would need to be beaten by Los Gatos, which I don't see happening. It will come down to depth, but I think it will be either Gunn or Monta Vista."

That means an impressive streak is likely to end. The last time the Vikings lost a league finals was 2002. Paly has won 10 straight, 16 of the past 18 and lost only three times in the past 24 years.

Gunn, meanwhile, has finished second three straight seasons.

Both teams lost big-time talent after last season. Paly lost national recordholder Jasmine Tosky and Gunn lost All-American Rachael Acker. Both swam in the 2013 NCAA Championships, Tosky for USC and Acker for Cal. Both won two individual events at the De Anza Division finals while Acker swam on two winning relays.

Palo Alto, however, used a 54-point advantage in diving to hold off Gunn, 508-499, and keep its streak intact.

While the Vikings have a 35-point lead over the Titans following diving, the margin is not insurmountable. Gunn has 18 swims in the finals following Wednesday's trials while Paly has 15 and Monta Vista 14. Including the consolation finals, Gunn has 30 swims and Paly has 28.

"Just as was the case last year, the question will be whether we can overcome a diving deficit," said Gunn coach Mark Hernandez.

The Monta Vista girls will have the stars, Palo Alto has the depth and, Hernandez says "We have a little of both."

Paly and Gunn each return one individual champ from the girls' meet, Molly Zebker for Paly (200 IM) and Jenna Campbell for Gunn (500 free).

Campbell was the top qualifier in the 200 free (1:52.23) and 500 free (5:02.59) while Paly's lone winner was junior Jayna Wittenbrink in the 100 fly (58.20).

Gunn swept all three relays at last year's meet and still didn't win. Should that happen again, the Titans could swim off with their first title.

In the boys' meet, Palo Alto should avenge its dual-meet loss to Monta Vista while swimming off with another title. The Vikings grabbed a 52-point lead over the Matadors following diving, since Monta Vista had no entrants.

Paly junior Andrew Liang is the defending champ in the 50 free and 500 free. He's the No. 1 seed in the 50 free and 100 fly. Sophomore William Lee, whose best individual effort was third in the 100 back last year, has the No. 1 see in the 200 IM and No. 2 seed in the 100 back.

Gunn freshman Daichi Matsuda ranks No. 1 in the 500 free and No. 2 in the 100 fly.

The Peninsula Athletic League Championships, meanwhile, will be Saturday at Burlingame High at 2 p.m.

The Menlo-Atherton boys will defend their title while the M-A girls will attempt to keep their season perfect with a championship meet crown.

The M-A boys, however, went 3-3 during the dual-meet season and aren't the favorites going into the weekend as dual-meet champ Burlingame had a strong first day in the prelims on Wednesday. M-A's best finish was Jake Bassin's second in the 50 free (22.26).

One meet record fell, a 50.93 in the 100 fly by Carlmont's Ivan Garin. That lowered the previous mark of 51.80 by M-A's Kei Masuda in 2011.

The M-A girls, meanwhile, have 15 swims in the first four finals while Burlingame has nine. Freshman Brooke Stenstrom had the top 50 free (24.28) and freshman teammate Maddie Worden turned in the top 100 fly (1:01.19). The Bears went 2-3-6-8 in the 200 free, 2-7-8 in the 200 IM, 1-3-7-8 in the 50 free and 1-3-4-7 in the 100 fly.

The West Bay Athletic League finals were held Thursday at Sacred Heart Prep. Results are available at www.pasportsonline.com


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